Do you know the advantages of babies following a plant-based diet? Know the existing methods and possible compositions of a dish.
Plant-based feeding in childhood still raises many doubts in parents and professionals who accompany the child. The American Dietetic Association (2016) recognizes the vegetarian diet suitable for all stages of life, including for babies. Food care and nutritional adjustments must always be carried out as for any other type of diet.
Food Diversification Or Complementary Feeding (complementary because the main food continues to be milk until the baby learns to eat) of the traditional babies, ideal, should occur at 6 months, until this moment the baby should be fed exclusively by breastfeeding. It does not always happen, due to different factors, and sometimes the introduction of food occurs earlier.
The food introduction recommended by most pediatricians starts with vegetable purees, with more harmless vegetables and less fiber-rich. Potato, Carrot and Lettuce are the most common, simple purees of a single vegetable or conjugates. Lettuce, despite having little relevant nutritional value, is rich in Letucina, a natural tranquilizer that helps babies to rest.
Normally 10/15 days after the introduction of the vegetables, banana, pear and apple are introduced. Up to this point, the plant-based baby’s food diversification is no different from the traditional one.
After three weeks to a month, traditional food diversification includes the first animal protein, ground in the soup.
At this moment it is important for parents who decide to offer the Plant Based dietary pattern to the baby to be informed and above all to be accompanied not only by a pediatrician but also by a Nutritionist with specialization in plant-based feeding.
The introduction of vegetable proteins has associated a greater supply of fiber, which today is known not to be harmful to the baby, however, and like any other food in any of the types of food diversification, parents / caregivers should be aware of symptoms of food allergy (rash, shortness of breath) or food intolerance (alteration of the intestinal tract).
What are the benefits?
Plant-based food diversification can be beneficial for the baby’s health, there is less chance of becoming an obese or overweight child, less presence of cholesterol in the diet, less intake of saturated fat, greater intake of fruits and vegetables.
Are there key nutrients?
Regarding Vitamin B12 this is not a concern since breast milk or the formula provides this vitamin. If the child continues to be breastfed, the mother should take care to maintain her vitamin B12 supplementation.
The studies that exist are related to vegetarian children, and point to a higher iron supply in vegetarian diets in childhood than in traditional omnivorous diets. It is mandatory to reduce antinutritional factors to maximize the bioavailability of iron from plant sources. The soaking of beans is an example that must be taken into account. In addition to combining sources of vegetable iron with sources of vitamin C in babies’ meals (peppers, papaya, citrus fruits, kiwis) to enhance their absorption.
Regarding food introduction, there are different clinical opinions, pediatricians and nutritionists who prefer to introduce food in a specific order, and other health professionals who emphasize the benefits of exposure to a potentially allergenic food as soon as possible. Regardless of the privileged form, you should take into account the family history of the baby’s parents and of course, appropriate follow-up.
Protein is always a concern, however if the feeding is taken care of the baby will always have a balanced supply as in any other diet. Vegetable proteins integrated in a first phase of food diversification? Beans, Grain, lentils, peas. Natural proteins, thus avoiding those processed at this stage, such as tofu, seitan and tempeh.
What are the methods?
There are three Methods of Food Diversification, Traditional Method (Omnivorous, Vegetarian, Plant-Based), Baby Led Weaning Method and Participatory Method.
BLW allows the baby to define the amount of food he wants to eat, the food must be offered at family meal times, and he must always respect the baby’s appetite. The big difference is the way the food is presented, instead of purees the food is offered in strips, croquette, muffins, so that the baby can handle them. The benefits presented are the learning of individualized flavors, and the handling of food and cutlery earlier. Babies are more harmonious at mealtime, are less selective and are able to perceive their satiety more easily.
The Participatory Method has the same objectives and advantages as the BLW, respecting the baby’s satiety and autonomy. Food is offered both whole and in prepared meals where the baby learns to use the spoon.
How then is the Plant Based dish 6-12 months made?
It will depend on baby to baby, you should take into account the family’s daily life, the baby’s ability to sit up straight and the willingness to start feeding, but above all it should be a complete dish with:
1/3 cooked vegetables and greens (pumpkin, sprouts, carrots, broccoli);
1/3 of legumes (chickpeas, red beans, black beans, peas, lentils, azuki beans);
1/3 of cereals and tubers (brown rice, quinoa, white or sweet potatoes).
Plant-based feeding ensures all nutritional needs during childhood, is complete and optimal for the baby’s good development. It is important to be well informed and accompanied by the right health professionals.
Raquel de Morais Carvalho Neto
Nutritionist Holmes Place Cascais
(2019) Baroni. L, and such. Vegan Nutrition for Mothers and Children: practical tools for healthcare providers.
Brazilian Vegetarian Society – pdf feed 6 months-2 years.
Posted in Blog, Nutrition and tagged plant-based diet, babies, food diversification, nutritionist.